Every once in a while I’ll run into someone who eschews technology. Recently I heard someone ask “What are you missing by not being on Facebook?” Perhaps all social media’s not equal, but if we asked that question of Twitter, I’d have to say, a lot.
I joined Twitter sometime after I moved to Sioux Falls…I don’t remember exactly when. For a while I was a lurker…mostly reading, and figuring out how it worked and who to follow. Eventually, I found my friends, people I already knew. But, after tweeting about local things, I started getting followers I didn’t know. And we’d banter back and forth about different things. And we began meeting in real life. Not necessarily often, but I met real, actual, local people on Twitter that I probably wouldn’t have run into any other way. And I love that.
I also met a friend on Twitter who eventually ended up coming to church. Not that it couldn’t have happened without me because it definitely could have, and not that I try to use Twitter as an evangelism tool more than anything else I do, but I think the ability to reach out to other people in this way, to connect, is a powerful thing regardless of the subject matter.
I also know about things that are happening in town that I would never hear about otherwise. I don’t watch the local news because, well, it’s not really news. I’ve also been hooked up with services and businesses I wouldn’t have found on my own. When my dad was critically ill last summer and we needed to find him a general practitioner, I asked my Twitter community. And a friend, who had a few similar issues, recommended someone, an my dad has been (happily) seeing him since. I’ve also gotten much less life changing info, like where to sharpen my knives or the best place places to eat in town.
Profesionally, Twitter has also been a game changer for me. Leading up to the ASHA (American Speech Language Hearing Association) conference last year, I started following some Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs). Through Twitter, a few of us got together for dinner one night, and hung out most of the rest of the conference together. This was night and day from the previous year when I mostly did the conference on my own, hanging out in my hotel room after the day was through.
Not only was hanging out at the conference great, but I realized there is a huge SLP presence on Twitter (using the #slpeep) hashtag. It’s really a large professional learning community, and has been so important to me as a beginning SLP. In order to not annoy the crap out of my personal contacts, I created a professional Twitter account, and I can’t count the ways it’s been useful to me.
First and foremost, it’s been support and encouragement in a profession that can be a bit isolating. When I was subbing with a caseload of 80 basically on my own, the #slpeeps made it bearable. They answered questions (What would you do in a situation like this..) and resources (Check out So and So’s book on X), and just general you got this girl kind of encouragement.
When I started getting ready for school this year, I barraged them again with questions. I asked them how they organize their rooms, what are their must have supplies, how did they stay on top of paperwork, and on and on. As I got into the school year, and had a really tough kid, I asked one of the #slpeeps, an expert (though she may not call herself that) in the area for advice and help with details of how to carry out a particular treatment. And it’s working. I honestly don’t think I would have had that kind of success on my own. And though it’s a professional activity for me, I’ve also met some dear friends, people I’ve met up with face-to-face and care about in real life and even apart from SLP. It’s been a blessing.
The one thing I struggle with a little bit with my professional Twitter life is that I may not have a lot to give. Opinions, sure. I never run out of those. But as far as advice or support, being a newbie I’m a little green to start doing that. But, I know that, like in other areas of life, and especially I think in the SLP community, you remember those who helped you out and return the favor as you can. I’d love to be able to reassure and resource a new SLP someday as she enters the field.
So when I think about the question “What would I be missing without Twitter,” my answer is really whole worlds. Truly. It’s not sitting down with someone for a cup of coffee, but in my experience, it can turn into that. And even if it doesn’t, it might be exactly what you need right now.